April 11, 2013 9:09:51 AM
STARKVILLE - While Scott Stricklin was a member of the athletic departments at Tulane University and Baylor University, he would still have his alma mater on his mind especially on Thanksgiving day when he knew Mississippi State University would play the University of Mississippi later that evening.
Well that feeling is back for Stricklin and all MSU fans but this time he gets to experience this national holiday and state-wide rivalry game as the Director of Athletics in Starkville. The football game that is considered a state-wide celebration for all Mississippians will now have the platform of a national holiday this season.
ESPN announced Wednesday morning the 2013 rivalry game between MSU and the Ole Miss will be held on Thanksgiving evening for the first time in a decade.
"It gives MSU, Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi a national exposure platform, which is always beneficial," MSU Director of Athletics Scott Stricklin said. "The routine in the past for Mississippians was spend Thanksgiving day with family & head to the game. For me I remember being able to sit on my couch and watch MSU and it's neat folks get to do that again."
ESPN will televise the 110th meeting between the two programs nationwide on Thursday, Nov. 28, at 6:30 p.m. ESPN has only agreed to broadcast the game on Thanksgiving for this upcoming season and future matchups on the holiday has not been discussed.
The network, which previously televised the rivalry game as its annual Thanksgiving Day primetime college football game from 1998 to 2003, had its executives approach the leadership of the two schools just over a month ago for a one-year agreement to play on Thanksgiving again in 2013. Both schools were more than happy to accommodate the possibility of millions of television viewers.
"Speaking for (ESPN) I just think this is happening becaause they saw a premier rivalry matchup where both schools are doing well," Stricklin said. "As I've said before, we all have friends that went to and are fans of Ole Miss and we always agree that this game is extremely important.
The main obvious reason for this schedule change is television viewership - here's the breakdown of those numbers:
Recent Egg Bowl TV viewers (481,160 avg over last three years)
2010: Mississippi State at Ole Miss, 531,560 (ESPNU)
2011: Ole Miss at Mississippi State, 409,911 (ESPNU)
2012: Mississippi State at Ole Miss, 502,011 (ESPNU)
Recent Thanksgiving TV viewers (3.6M avg over last three years)
2010: Texas A&M at Texas, 4.9M (ESPN)
2011: Texas at Texas A&M, 4.1M (ESPN)
2012: TCU at Texas, 1.9M (ESPN)
"This is always, without question, the biggest game of the season for us," MSU coach Dan Mullen said through a school release. "Playing on Thanksgiving night allows a national audience to see how important this game is in our state."
Like most things, the athletic administration of both MSU and Ole Miss can't exactly agree on how many Egg Bowls have been played on Thanksgiving in the history of the rivalry matchup. MSU has 20. OM has 25. After extensive research by The Dispatch MSU Sports Blog, the number I found was 22 Egg Bowls on Thanksgiving:
Egg Bowls on Turkey Day - 1908-11, 1918, 1926-32, 1937, 1969-71, 1998-2003. The Rebels lead series on Turkey Day 13-8-1.
Mullen is 3-1 in the Egg Bowl, his first loss coming last season in a 41-24 defeat in Oxford in what was Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze's introduction to the rivalry matchup. Ole Miss holds a 61-42-6 advantage in the overall series. The last time the matchup was on Thanksgiving the Rebels shut out the MSU 31-0 in Starkville giving Ole Miss a share of the 2003 Western Division Championship in the Southeastern Conference.
"I think it's great for this storied rivalry to return to Thanksgiving Day," Freeze said through a school release. "There were so many memorable moments from our meetings on that holiday in the past, and I hope to see a big Rebel turnout in Starkville this year."
Both schools had already agreed to play a Thursday night game this season on ESPN as Ole Miss will open the 2013 season by playing at Vanderbilt University on Aug. 29, at 9:15 p.m. The Bulldogs will host the University of Kentucky on Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m.
MSU will have five days to prepare for the 2013 Egg Bowl matchup after a SEC road test against the University of Arkansas at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Ole Miss has home games against Troy University and the University of Missouri before coming to Starkville for the season finale against MSU. Stricklin said he consulted with Mullen about the quick turnaround and the Bulldogs fifth-year coach is supportive of the move.
"We wouldn't be doing it if Dan and his staff didn't feel comfortable with the situation," Stricklin said. "I think the fact that the game is at home makes the quick turnaround a little easier in terms of scheduling for our coaches."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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